When someone has ‘gone‘, in Bahamianese language, that means they have died. And when someone dies, that is time for hollering “Oh Lawd, so and so gone.”
On 24th March 1964, all across Nassau, and in a few places in Miami, the ladies were hollering “Sweet Richard Gone.” Why would the ladies take to wailing for poor deceased Richard, one might ask? Well, the answer would be his youth, his swivel hips limbo moves and his striking good looks.
Richard George Dean had found fame as the exotic limbo and fire dancer “Sweet Richard.” Along with his partner, Princess Kitty, they performed in venues in Nassau and along Miami Beach, in front of packed houses, in a routine described as “an act packed with perpetual motion and sin.”
The duo were an incredible sensation, in the days when limbo and fire dancing, were top featured tourist entertainment. Everyone wanted to see how low they could go, under the stick, in the 1950s and 1960s.
(The Miami News Monday 30 November, 1959)
Sweet Richard was born on Long Island on 11th May 1932. He had lived in Nassau for sometime and was a featured entertainer there. By January 1958, he gave his permanent address in the Bahamas, as West and Meeting Streets, Nassau on an immigration declaration. Richard was on his way to perform in Fort Lauderdale.
On February 6th 1958, Sweet Richard appeared in court on a charge of drinking in public. Richard and others were the back of a truck doing what the newspaper called “bumps and grinds” dance while others played bingo drums. Someone said they observed Richard drinking from a bottle he brought out from under his cape.
He was arrested. When Richard came to court, in Fort Lauderdale, he went barefoot, and in his flashiest calypso attire. The King of Limbo came to court wearing ankle bracelets, bright plaid pants, loud red cape, a big Texas hat and earrings hanging from his ears. They say Richard “limboed” into court.
(Fort Lauderdale News Friday, 07 February, 1958)
Sweet Richard was in the prime of his life, and at the top of his career at only 32 years old. Since 1960 to 1964, he and Princess had been a standard act, performing at Place Pigalle, a Miami Beach nightspot.
It was only just a few months shy of his 33rd birthday when, tragedy struck.
(The Miami News Sunday, 15 December, 1963)
On Monday the 23rd March 1964, he was found dead, beside pieces of steak, on the kitchen floor of an apartment in Miami. Richard had apparently choked to death on a piece of steak. His dance partner / wife Princess Kitty found him on the floor surrounded by pieces of overcooked steak.
Sweet Richard, a handsome Bahama negro, dead at 33 years old. He was buried in Nassau.